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Posts Tagged ‘managing anxiety’

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One can never command the mind.  There is only one way to reach the mind.  It is through the breath. – Dr. Chandrasekaran

The holidays are upon us and I can see it in my students’ bodies – rapid, shallow breathing; tense bellies, upper backs, jaws and shoulders; digestive issues galore.  Recently I received a message from someone asking if I could share some pointers on how to “manage my moods and anxiety”.  *exhale*  Phew!  That’s a tall order.  Anxiety is an amorphous entity; that is, anxiety is an ever-changing constellation of symptoms that arise and impact each individual sufferer in a unique way.  As a result, it is best dealt with one-on-one with a Yoga therapist or skilled Yoga teacher who can create for you a practice that addresses you and your symptoms alone.  The Western “one size fits all” mentality is not the Yogic way.

That being said, there is one thing that is safe, accessible, and has helped many.  I bring to you my favourite breathing technique.


 * Settle yourself in to a comfortable lying position.  Allow the body to feel completely supported in a way where tension can drop away and you can focus on your breath.

 

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Begin to observe the easy rise and fall of the belly as you breathe in and out.  Let the breath be natural and simply observe.  Tune in to your breath.

* Now begin to extend the length of the inhale.  Perhaps begin with a 4 second count.  Slowly start to breathe in and count 1…2…3…4.  Let it be a slow count.  Then pause for 1 or 2 seconds and exhale a long, slow, smooth exhale.  Pause briefly again.

* Return to the inhale and this time see if you can inhale to a count of 5.  Pause.  Exhale.  Pause again.

Continue increasing the inhale by 1 second with each round until you discover your maximum inhale.  This maximum should be easy to manage and feel comfortable in the body.  You will know there is strain if tension begins to develop in the body and mind, and/or if you strain for the next breath.  If this happens, reduce the inhale by 1 second and stay at that level.  Remember:  There is no failing.  A higher number does not mean you’re “better” at this.  The number is there for concentration purposes.  It is not a gauge of your success.  If you’re breathing, you’re successful.  Be kind and leave it at that.  🙂

Once you’ve found your maximum inhale, stay there for a number of breaths; that is, continue breathing to that level for 6 or 8 breaths, whichever feels most accessible to you.

* Imagine that each time you come to that brief pause after inhale and exhale, you enter an oasis of complete stillness and quiet.  The body, mind and breath can remain safely suspended in space for a brief moment, and then can continue on.  Do your best to relax in the pause.  Be empty.  Be quiet.

* When you’ve completed your  6 or 8 breaths, drop the technique.  Release the mind from counting and simply return to the natural breath.  Enjoy breathing in and out for a few moments and then move on with your day (or, hopefully, drift into sleep if you’re visiting this in the middle of the night).


I have given this technique to every student who has seen me for help with their anxiety.  They have turned to it again and again whenever their symptoms of anxiety arise.  While it might not be the elimination cure we all hope for, it has the capacity to settle the system to an extent where symptoms begin to dissipate, sleep improves, and stress levels decrease.  Even when the situation is dire (as in the case of grief and loss), this breath technique has allowed students to cope in ways they never thought possible.  Heck, I use it and it works!

I invite you to challenge yourself to suspend disbelief for a moment and give this a whirl.  I’d love to hear your feedback.

Regardless, have a wonderful holiday season.  May you be surrounded by joy and love.  As I said to my students, “DREAM BIG!”  Love hard.  KEEP BREATHING!  And see you soon.

All my love,

Tabitha

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